In the new Netflix drama “Fatherhood,” released on June 18, single dad Matthew Logelin, played by Kevin Hart, takes his daughter, Maddy, and his date, Lizzie, to the Boston Children’s Museum. Outside the museum, the trio plays the musical fence, an interactive installation designed by Daniel Joseph and his team at The Pickup Music Project.
“The scene is similar to what occurred in real life,” Joseph said. “You would see a child wander over to the fence and start playing. Then their parents would join them, and ultimately, you might see a father who’s enjoying the musical experience more than the child.”
On display from April to October of 2019, the musical fence seen in “Fatherhood” is just one of many music-making sculptures created by The Pickup Music Project since its founding in 2016.
Joseph, a Boston-native and Somerville resident, attributes his work with The Pickup Music Project to a book and a sculpture.
During his time as an undergraduate at Tufts University, Joseph read “How Musical Is Man?” by John Blacking. In it, Blacking argues the importance of participatory music, which encourages listeners to take part in music-making.
“We don’t assume that by watching a basketball game, you’re going to burn calories or get the benefits of playing,” Joseph said. “The same might be true for music.”
Joseph’s research continued into his senior thesis, when he stumbled upon a sculpture at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln. The “Musical Fence” by Paul Matisse, the grandson of renowned French painter Henri Matisse, had originally been installed in two pieces — one in major key and one in minor key — outside the Cambridge City Hall in 1980. Eventually, the fences were moved because of noise complaints, one to the deCordova Museum, where it has lived since 1989.
Inspired by Matisse’s work, Joseph and his team have picked up the baton with their own sound sculptures, made of aluminum pipes of differing sizes.
“It’s like lifting the keys of a piano, mixing them all up and putting it back down,” Joseph said. “If you run along the fence, you get a melody.”
They’ve built musical fences for the 2016 Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival in Wisconsin, the 2018 Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, and 2019 installations at Cambridge Crossing and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
While many of Joseph’s installations are temporary exhibits at music festivals, school campuses, and museums, he has built a permanent musical fence along the Mystic River at Torbert MacDonald State Park.
Another permanent piece, “Player-Fence,” will debut in July at The Common at CX in Cambridge. Incorporating electronics and Internet connectivity, it will be able to play itself.
“I hope, through music, people smile and get a bit of reprieve from the constant deluge of verbal and mental chatter we exist in throughout the day,” Joseph said.